MONTREAL — A massive student protest over Quebec's plans to raise tuition escalated this week amid violent clashes with police and the prospect of snap elections to pave the way for conciliation.
Despite the growing unrest, the government of the French-speaking Canadian province has refused to meet with student groups behind 11 weeks of protests, after talks broken down earlier in the week. "There will be no dialogue (with them) as long as the violence continues," Quebec Premier Jean Charest said Thursday, after police arrested 85 people for smashing storefronts and vandalizing cars during a riot in Montreal overnight.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesman of the most militant student group, responded in a televised address that CLASSE and its followers "don't encourage violence, have never encouraged violence and I don't encourage violence."
Approximately 180,000 university and college students, or 45 percent of all students in the province, are "on strike," having refused since the beginning of February to attend classes in order to draw attention to a planned 75 percent hike in school fees over five years to $3,800 starting in September.